TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The November election is just a day away and WFLA is watching all of the big races for Florida, whether it could change the balance of power in Washington, or leadership in the state.
Below, the following six races are on our watch list for their potential impacts to Florida, and its representation in the nation’s capital.
Governor: DeSantis vs. Crist
Obviously, the first big race on everyone’s minds is who Florida’s governor is going to be. Incumbent Ron DeSantis is running against Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor turned Democratic Congressman for Florida’s 13th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both candidates have served in multiple offices, and both candidates are hoping for a vote to lead Florida.
If Crist wins the seat for the Democrats, he’ll have control of state agencies, appointments and executive policy. If DeSantis keeps the governorship, he’ll stay on the course he’s charted. The only piece up for speculation on the DeSantis front is if he wins, will he stay in office all four years of his term, or will he run for president.
It’s a question that has been a focus during the whole campaign season, and even made it to the single gubernatorial debate. Despite repeated pushes by Crist during the debate, DeSantis did not answer or respond to the possibility. If he does win reelection, and then chooses to run for President of the United States in 2024, DeSantis would have to leave office, putting Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nuñez into the lead seat to finish out the term.
U.S. Senate: Rubio vs. Demings
Looking at how Florida plays into national politics, the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat pits incumbent Republican Marco Rubio, in the spot since 2011, against U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings, his Democratic challenger.
The U.S. Senate is currently sitting on a razor’s edge of balance. While the Democrats have been in control of the Senate since 2020, their slim majority has relied upon Vice President Kamala Harris and lengthy negotiations to pass President Joe Biden’s policy agenda. The VP has had to be the tie-breaker vote multiple times when it comes to getting legislation through.
Florida’s Senate seat isn’t the only slot that could change the balance of power in U.S. Congress, but most polls have so far forecast a Rubio win. If Demings wins, it means Democrats are a little closer to keeping majority control of the upper chamber, though if Rubio keeps his position, the already tenuous grasp of the Senate becomes more uncertain.
Agriculture Commissioner: Simpson vs. Blemur
The race to replace Democrat Nikki Fried, former candidate for Florida governor and current Commissioner for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, features a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces for residents across the state.
Outgoing Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson is the Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, while he’s facing off with Naomi Blemur, a Miami businesswoman and member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee.
Simpson has been endorsed by Gov. DeSantis while Blemur received an endorsement by Miami-Dade Democrat and State Senator Annette Taddeo.
In terms of how the race would affect Florida, Simpson’s campaign website states that he’ll be using his experience as a farmer and long experience in state politics to guide his policies as commissioner, with a priority on supporting veterans, economic freedom and environmental protection. Blemur’s campaign site says she’s focused on ending poverty and hunger in the state, gun rights reform and clean energy, using the commissioner’s office as a tool to do so.
Florida Senate District 14: Cruz vs. Collins
The state senate race for District 14, which pits incumbent Janet Cruz against Republican challenger Jay Collins, is centered right on Tampa. District 14 covers parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, based on the newly-drawn congressional maps.
Formerly, Cruz was the state senator for District 18. With the new map come new numbers. Collins is fighting to win the seat and adjust the balance of party power in the state legislature, which already skews Republican.
During special sessions in 2022, even with all Democrats walking out of the chamber, Republicans were able to have enough members to maintain a quorum and vote through legislation. If Cruz holds onto her district, the power play won’t change much. If Collins takes the seat, it just gives another vote to the Republican agenda in Tallahassee.
U.S. House District 13: Luna vs. Lynn
The race for U.S. District 13 in the St. Petersburg area is a battle for former U.S. Rep. Crist’s seat in Congress. Anna Paulina Luna, the Republican candidate and Air Force veteran, is again campaigning for the Pinellas district. Her opposition, Eric Lynn, is a former national security advisor to President Barack Obama.
In the redrawn congressional map from 2022, the district is leaning more Republican as far as the voters, but the county overall has also shifted more conservative since 2020. Both candidates are appealing to voters, with the outcome impacting control the U.S. House of Representatives.
Depending on who wins, the number of seats could end up adding to how the House flips, and which party is in control. For the national balance of power in Washington, there is only a slim majority of control for Democrats. If Republicans take the lower chamber, California Republican Kevin McCarthy would become House Speaker, and committee controls would shift.
U.S. House District 15: Lee vs. Cohn
Another redrawn district, District 15 also plays into the balance for national politics. If Laurel Lee, former Florida Secretary of State, wins the race, it’ll push Republicans closer to majority control in Congress.
Paired with the potential for the U.S. Senate to also shift control, it’s possible that Republicans take both chambers of Congress. Doing so would allow the GOP to block President Biden’s agenda through the end of his term or make compromises even more difficult than the previous two years, due to the razor-thin control Democrats currently have.
Currently the U.S. House has a 220 Democratic majority, while Republicans hold 212 seats. Only 218 are needed to take control of the chamber, meaning Democrats would have to lose three seats to lose control and Republicans would have to gain five. There are three vacant seats in Congress ahead of the midterms.
The races for U.S. Congress in Tampa Bay are just two of the 435 seats up for election or reelection in Congress. House races come up for reelection every two years, due to term lengths in Congress.